Triviana

Looking for a quality of light
in the forsaken city of angels

''Lost Light''
By Michael Connelly
(Little, Brown; 368 pps.; $25.95)

Buy it at Amazon.com in hardcover.

Reviewed by John Orr
April 2003

The United States used to have a pretty good system of rights and laws to protect its citizens from such inconviences as illegal search and seizure.

Then came 9/11 and the ensuing panic of the Patriot Act, and now if you look cross-eyed at a federal officer who's having a tummy ache you can be thrown in a holding cell to rot until the Tums kicks in or till hell freezes over.

Civil rights and other groups are challenging the Patriot Act, but in the meantime leave it to fiction to take up the good fight; specifically Michael Connelly, with his latest Harry Bosch tale, ''Lost Light.''

Bosch, who threw down his badge and marched out of Parker Center at the end of ''City of Bones,'' is still a cranky guy with a gun, but no badge just a private-detective license.

He hasn't done much since quitting the L.A.P.D. other than drink red wine and stare at the walls. But then he got a call from Lawton Cross, a detective who'd been paralyzed by what seemed to be a random shooting a few years before.

Cross asks Bosch to look into an old case that has haunted both of them for years, because neither had been able to solve it: the murder of Angella Benton.

Her body had been found in the vestibule of her apartment building on Fountain near La Brea. She'd been strangled, but Bosch and his partner, Kizmin Rider, quickly deduced that details of the crime scene the exposed bosom, the puddle of semen had been staged. But then the robbery-homicide division took over the case, assigning Cross and detective Jack Dorsey.

Dorsey was killed in the same incident that left Cross paralyzed. And the Benton case sat in a file drawer.

Then Bosch starts asking around, including talking to Rider. But Rider, now an L.A.P.D. bureaucrat, just warns Bosch to stay away.

When Bosch starts asking if Benton's death might have something to do with a huge pile of money that disappeared from a movie lot not long after she died, the F.B.I. gets all cranky and throws Bosch in a holding cell in that big building on Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, along with suspected Muslim terrorists.

But, he doesn't just disappear forever, but gets out and continues the good fight, with the help of an F.B.I. agent who has his own reasons for wanting Bosch to succeed. It's a thrilling mystery full of action, and a large load of plot twists.

''Lost Light'' is a USDA Prime selection for the meaty Bosch series, and a treat for those who were worried about what would happen to their hero after he quit the L.A.P.D.

Well, he's still out there, fighting the good fight in the land of smoggy sunsets and martinis at Musso and Frank's Grill.